It is not new, but when it was first released three years ago it became buried in the system, and was hardly shown. A different matter in the United States, it last year quickly became a cult movie. An Oscar nomination was even suggested, but the rules precluded it on account of its earlier, too brief appearance.
It is a stylish, intriguing, noirish work. Jack (Clive Owen), an unsuccessful novelist, is urged by his gambling, womanising father (Nicholas Ball) to become a croupier in a London casino, thus both making money and gaining material for a new book. The calling of a croupier is that of a loner, perfectly placed to observe and manipulate human behaviour, and Jack is hooked. It is as if his old ego has been taken over by Jake, the protagonist of his novel, who has a different outlook on life. Thus Jack leads the punters on, cheats on his disapproving girlfriend (Gina McKee), a department store detective, and has liaisons with a fellow dealer (Kate Hardie) and a debt-ridden, sexually voracious client (Alex Kingston) who unveils to him a plan rob the casino.
The provenance of this intricate, intriguing film is impressive. It was directed by Mike Hodges, whose "Get Carter" was one of the best British thrillers of the 1970s and scripted by Paul Mayersberg, the screenwriter of "The Man Who Fell to Earth". For once here is a British film that is both tough and intelligent, and so well-researched that it will probably tell you more about how casinos work than had it been a documentary.
"Croupier" is re-released in UK cinemas on 1st June 2001.